The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Xia dao Gao Fei aka Full Contact (1992)

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I was originally going to do this during my series of Hong Kong films last year, but the copy I have didn't play right, so I scrapped it. Mr. Kenner over at Movies in the Attic has this as one of his favorites, and he wasn't going to let me off that easy, so he sent me a copy. Now, with no more excuses, here we go.

Full Contact has Chow Yun-Fat as something of a drifter, living in Thailand, making ends meet off various black market projects. When he and his girl need money fast, he agrees to go in on a big heist set up by his buddy with another group of thugs. It's a set up though, and CYF barely escapes with his life. Now, hellbent on revenge, he needs to find a balance between redemption for his own misdeeds and retribution for the ones committed against him.

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This one had it all, everything you'd want from a great Hong Kong actioner: the fights, the shootouts, the explosions, all expertly shot-- a great mix of art and violence. Chow Yun-Fat was sweet, but I think if I had a choice, I'd prefer him in a finely tailored suit over biker gang gear. He's a very mature looking star, and maturity always looks better better dressed. Overall, this was pretty decent.

All this being said though, I had a major qualm with Full Contact: the innocent chick who's badly burned. During the double-cross, the fight between CYF and the gang ends up in an innocent family's house, and everyone is killed except a girl, who is badly burned, and we have to see her throughout the rest of the picture. Why would you do that? It was just weird, and put a weirdness on the film that discolored everything for me. This wasn't like The Killer, where Chow Yun-Fat blinds a woman at the beginning, because in that case it wasn't weird, it made sense with the rest of the film. Here it was gratuitous, and not in a good way.

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Chow Yun-Fat is probably best known to American audiences for Crouching Tiger, which was great, but that barely touches the surface of what he brings to the table. For about 15 years, from the mid-80s up to Crouching Tiger, he amassed a dizzying amount of credits-- like somewhere around 40 or 50, I lost count after a while! Imagine someone of his stature in the US working at that pace? Here he's very different from what we're used to in his John Woo roles, playing a more down-and-out guy looking to make ends meet however he can. It was cool seeing him on the motorcycle, trying to channel Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones, but as I said above, I prefer the suit. Still good for a change.

Ringo Lam directed this, which if you're not familiar with him, he's also done three Jean-Claude Van Damme films, Replicant, In Hell, and Maximum Risk. I haven't seen Maximum Risk in a long time, but the other two I didn't really care for. This had a great action quotient, and might have been one I really enjoyed if it hadn't gotten all weird on me. I think that's why you can look at someone like John Woo and see a whole other class of director. Ringo Lam is good, but doesn't quite do it for me.

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This film takes place in Thailand, which I think I brought up in Bangkok Dangerous, I like aesthetically for an action film. It takes on something of a modern Wild West feel. What I like about Full Contact though is the theme of Chinese diaspora, that Thailand isn't these characters' true home, though it's the home they're currently stuck with. On top of that, there's the impact of these Chinese immigrants on their adopted home. In that sense, I get Ringo Lam using the badly burned girl as a metaphor for that impact, but it was still a little weird for me.

Netflix doesn't have this for rent on DVD, but they have added it to their Watch Instantly feature. It's the dubbed version, so if you like subtitles, like I do, that might not work. Also, Amazon has it for sale, and you can even buy it new, plus it's available on their On Demand system. For me, it's a little too weird for my tastes, but you might be less put off by that. I'd screen it on Netflix or something before buying, just in case.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105851/

6 comments:

  1. That's interesting you saying Chow Yun Fat looks too mature of an actor to be in biker gear. I agree especially if you ever watch A Better Tomorrow 1-3. Actually John Woo's war movie Heroes Shed No Tears features more carnage and is pretty brutal. Full Contact in a lot of ways was unorthadox, for instance the villain being openly gay, and the ending in which CYF tells him to "Go jack off in hell" I also thought the love triangle between CYF his girlfriend and former best friend was one of the key elements as to why I place this up there as CYF's best movies. I liked Maximum Risk and Replicant but was no fan of In Hell which in my opinion was brutal without reason and was derivative of Midnight Express,Prison On Fire 1-2 and Cool Hand Luke.

    One of my big surprises was that CYF never fared well in Hollywood, I mean in his movies he was great with lots of charisma maybe he was too mature looking for U.S audiences.

    Final observation would be that comparing John Woo to Ringo Lam is like comparing James Cameron (Post-94) to Walter Hill. Different styles all together, though I would agree Woo is more of a master showsman.

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  2. I meant James Cameron before he turned on us. Before-97 is what I meant.

    James Cameron is like that best friend you have who gets popular and changes into something you can't stand. I hated Avatar.

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  3. Yeah, the only reason Avatar made so much money was because of the 3-D, if it wasn't shot in 3-D i highly doubt it would've done nearly as well. I think it's a pretty damn overrated film myself, though I don't exactly hate it, i'll gladly watch it over the cinematic abortion Titanic ANY day, that's for danm sure! Also Matt, you thought that burn scene was weird, well that's NOTHING compared to a scene that got deleted from the film due to being too disturbing-CYF's character actually EATS THE EYEBALLS of one of the characters that died in the fire! I'm REALLY glad that scene was cut!

    I also agree about In Hell, I think it's Van Damme's weakest film alongside Black Eagle, though that's because i'm not really into prison films as they usually either bore me or just depress the hell out of me(there's a few exceptions like the Fortress films and Bloodfist 3 of course, and Van damme's other prison film Death Warrant was considerably better)

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  4. Ahh, one of my favorites from back in the day gets the proper DTVC treatment! Great review- this was always one of CYF's best for me; loved it. The "go jack off in hell" line is priceless- also features one of my favorite actors, Simon Yam- so amazing. haven't seen this in years, maybe it's time to revisit.

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  5. Yes, we finally made it happen. I had to throw in a little joke first, and I was surprised Kenner didn't read into my specifically mentioning CYF and see the bonus post coming, but it's all right, it all worked out in the end.

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  6. I liked Full Contact but caught it pretty late in the cycle, years after I'd already formed pretty hard opinions of CYF as supercop/superkiller from his Woo collaborations. So him being cast as a tough biker felt clunky at first but I had to ignore the perceived incongruity after watching what I found to be a great action movie with good performances. I think Simon Yam definitely steals the show as Judge but it's a good time all around.

    I've not seen any of the Ringo/Van Damme collaborations but TBH, only Maximum Risk looks intriguing. (I fell off the JCVD bandwagon pretty hard after The Quest and only recently tried to get back on.)

    CYF picked some fairly atrocious material to make his splash in the U.S. which is probably why he hasn't panned out Stateside (yet.) Shanghai looks somewhat promising but in the long-term I'm not sure American studios really know what to do with a guy of his talents.

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